Summer Sips From the Rutherford Wine Company

vines_of_summerIs it really summer? You would have a hard time determining that by comparing this years weather to the last few years, but now is the time we like to give a few summer wine recommendations.

Winexpression was sent a few wines from the Rutherford Wine Company, who own the Rutherford Ranch Winery (Napa Valley), Round Hill, Scott Family Estate (Arroyo Seco) and Lander-Jenkins Vineyards labels. The Rutherford Ranch winery had it’s start in 2000 and is built on the original site of the Round Hill Winery. The original grape vine’s and tasting room were completely redone by the Zaninovich family who purchased the property from the retiring Van Asperen’s, but the olive grove and “unpretentious charm” of the winery were left in tact. The result? An umbrella of wines all made using sustainable viticulture practices that are an excellent value.

Dominican Oaks 2007 Napa Valley Chardonnay
Production: 2,230 – 12/750ml cases
Alcohol: 13.5%
Aging: Fermented and aged in a combination of French and American oak barrels and temperature controlled stainless tanks.
Blend: 100% Chardonnay
Suggested Retail: $15.00
Notes: A fantastic bargain. Butter and vanilla aromas carry onto the medium bodied palate and intensify over the 30 second finish.
90-92 pts (A-)

Rutherford Ranch 2008 Chardonnay
35% Malolactic Fermentation
Suggested retail: $15.00
The aroma of Lemon peel, apple, and peach all greet your nose on this golden hued wine.  Light on the palate with nice balance. A soft finish with a buttery/apple flavor.
88pts (B+)

Lander-Jenkins 2008 Chardonnay
Production: About 3,000 cases
Suggested retail: $12.00
Notes: A lovely wine with whiffs of toasty oak with a light bodied mouth feel and a good finish. A well balanced wine that leans toward citrus flavors on the palate.
88-90 pts (B+/A-)

Scott Family Estate 2007 Arroyo Seco Chardonnay Dijon Clone
Alcohol: 13.5%
Suggested retail: $25.00
Notes: Lemon peel and other citrus notes lead this in the right direction with a creamy texture and subtle hint of mineral and oak in your mouth. The acid is balanced and the finish leaves you wanting another sip.
90 pts (A-)

Round Hill 2007 California Pinot Grigio
Blend: 90% Pinot Grigio, 5% Chenin Blanc and 5% Muscat Canelli
Aging: Cold fermentation in stainless steel
Alcohol: 12.5%
Retail: $10.00
Notes: Aromas of stone fruit and citrus. Very nicely textured on the palate with good acidity. A nice finish that is crisp and swift.
90pts (A-)

Here are a few red wines of note:

Rutherford Ranch 2006 Merlot
Aging 15 months in French and American oak.
Blend 91% Merlot, 5% Zinfandel, 3% Cabernet Sauvignon and 1% Syrah
Suggested retail: $17
Notes: Nice aroma of black cherry, blueberry and vanilla. Medium bodied with a velvety yet structured finish.
88 pts (B+)

Dominican Oaks 2006 Napa Valley Merlot
Production: 5,200 – 12/750ml cases
Alcohol: 13.5%
Aging: 15 months in French and American oak
Blend: 91% Merlot, 5% Zinfandel, 3% Cabernet Sauvignon and 1 % Syrah
Suggested Retail: $17.00
Notes: This well rounded Merlot offers loads of blackberry flavors, vanilla and a very nice mid-palate. Softly textured with a nice finish.  Perfect with food or on its own. Excellent value.
92-94pts (A-/A)

Lander-Jenkins 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon
Production: About 3,000 cases
Retail: $12.00
Notes: A delicious wine with a fragrance of blueberry, and flavor of caramel on the palate. This is a medium bodied wine with soft tannins that lends itself to being an easy drinker.  Smooth and fruity, an outstanding value.
90-92 pts (A-)

Website []

Wine Wipes – The Answer to Wine Stained Teeth?

wine_wipesStained teeth are unattractive, embarrassing, and now a thing of the past thanks to Wine Wipes, a product for cleaning up your crimson smile. A disposable pad is removed from the compact and the mirror affixed to the lid guides you as you rub off the stain. The package contains 20 wipes, a mirror, and retails for $6.95.

Sounds great! The only problem is… the taste. The company who makes them, Borracha LLC, claims they have a “gentle orange blossom flavor” that “freshens breath and cleans palate without interfering with wine tasting.” I found the flavor more of a hydrogen peroxide with baking soda and lemon juice. The ingredient’s reveal what’s going on:

“Water, citric acid, sodium bicarbonate, citrus medica limonum (lemon) juice, orange blossom natural flavor, sorbitol, sodium cloride, hydrogen peroxide, sodium benzoate, potassium sorbate, phosphoric acid”

It’s a great idea and I applaud the effort of it’s inventor, Kimberly Walker, but until version 2, I’ll put up with the look of stained teeth while allowing the flavor of wine to linger on my palate. How about a Sauvignon Blanc flavored option?


Full disclosure: I received this product as a press sample.

Tasting Notes: Dog Food

pate_or_dog_foodNo notes from Winexpression, however, 18 brave souls did belly up to the bar and taste dog food alongside various types of pâté and other ground up meat to see if they could pick it out from the line up. The result? Only 3 of the 18 people that participated were able to correctly identify the dog food.

What does this mean? Is Newman’s own just an incredible product that could be fed to people? Or is it that our palates are not as refined as we would like to think they are?

According to the researchers: 72% rated the dog food as the worst-tasting pâté.

Steven Colbert from Comedy Central’s Colbert Report covers the story, and, let me just say, don’t drink anything while watching because it will end up on your screen.


Hat tip: Dr.Vino who asks the question, what wine would pair with this dog food?

The full paper from the American Association of Wine Economists, who did the study, can be found here.

Top 10 Wine Myths Debunked

Copyright Winexpression

Urban legends and myths continue to dupe us. Until the Paris tasting in 1976, the myth that France was the only Country that could produce high quality wine lived on in oenophiles minds. Even though you may laugh at the myths below some people are still fooled by them. Let’s try to set the record straight.

10. Fruit used to describe wine went into making it.

cherriesFalse. Unless you are buying a wine made from a fruit other than grapes, it is made from the grape varietal on the label, and not from fruit used to describe it (e.g., black cherry, strawberry, kiwi). It’s comparable to artificial flavors, i.e. they taste similar to whatever is being copied but do not contain the actual ingredient. So when you see, “hints of raspberry, cherry, and vanilla” on the label, the producer is simply describing how the wine tastes similar to these components, they weren’t actually used in the production of the wine.

9. You need a different wine glass for different types of wines.

wine_glassesFalse. Again, this is a myth that was debunked a long time ago. You do need a tulip shaped glass or a glass that tappers towards the top to concentrate the aroma toward your nose, but, different shapes to place wine on your tongue in different areas or to aerate the wine faster aren’t necessary. Get yourself a nice set of stemware (Riedel Ouverture Red Wine, Zinfandel or these Riedel O Stemless) and save the space in your cupboard. If you need to let a young wine breathe quickly, try one of these aerators or get a Decanter.

8.You can’t age wines sealed with an alternative closure

twist_off_capFalse. In fact, the data shows that screw caps, or twist-offs as they are sometimes called, are more consistent at sealing wine than cork. One study, cited in the March 31, 2005 issue of Wine Spectator on pages 59-60, found that screw caps allowed .001 cc’s of oxygen per day on average, versus corks that allowed anywhere from to .1 to .001 cc’s of air to enter a wine bottle. In fact, 7 of the 35 bottles sealed with cork allowed .1 cc’s! That means twist-offs are more consistent and let in less oxygen over time, which would result in longer bottle aging. The cork industry would like to have you believe otherwise, but don’t buy it, screw caps are here to stay and you won’t have a problem letting these wines age.

7. Bordeaux, Burgundy, Champagne, Sherry, and Port are grape varieties.

chateau_margauxFalse. Thanks to a confusing labeling system from the old world this is a common mistake wine consumers make. Cities in France, Spain, Italy, and Portugal, among others, restrict production of grape varieties in their area. For a winery to receive legal approval and label their wine, it must be made in the manner mandated by the organization that oversees production there. That means Champagne is not a variety of wine, but the place where some sparkling wine is made. Want to make a non-sparkling wine in the Champagne region from say, Cabernet Sauvignon, and write that on the label? You can’t. Same with Bordeaux, which is a blend of different red varietal grapes, Burgundy, which is primarily made from Pinot Noir, and Port, which is made from various red and white grape varieties. More information can be found here [Wikipedia].

6. Pair white wine with fish or chicken and red wine with red meat

2005_linne_calodo_nemesisFalse. Although this is the most common answer to ‘what wine should I pair with what food,’ it is incorrect. The better way to pair food and wine is by anylizing the flavors of the food and the flavors of the wine. For example, if you are grilling fish and decide to season it with a little salt, lemon, and butter, a nice Sauvignon Blanc with citrus notes or a Chardonnay with buttery flavors would work great. If, however, it’s salmon that will be smothered in a blackberry sauce, you would be better suited in choosing a fruity red wine like a Pinot Noir, Merlot, or even a Syrah. The best thing to do is read the description of the wine from the label or a review on a blog and then pair like with like. It’s also helpful to understand that wines with firm tannins work better with salty dishes, or that acidic wines need a dish with a bit of acid, or how spicy food works better with wines with some residual sugar and not a high alcohol level. Just remember there are no hard and fast rules to this. Dr.Vino has been playing with impossible pairings for some time so search out advice if you get stumped, it’s available.

5. Wine lovers are snobs

rudd_center_tastingFalse. Only people that live in Napa or Bordeaux are….no, I kid. Actually, most serious wine lovers are students of it and are quite down to earth. It’s the people that mask their ignorance with arrogance you have to watch out for. True wine lovers are passionate about continuing their wine education, and are willing to share their knowledge and a glass with anyone interested.

4. You can discern wine quality by looking at the legs.

swirling_wineFalse. You swirl your glass, set it down and notice that a thin, clear layer has stuck to the inside of the glass, and begins to drip down. Sometimes referred to as tears, this is simply a small amount of alcohol and water that adheres to the surface of the glass and as the alcohol evaporates water is left dripping it’s way back in. Why? Water is a primary component in wine, and alcohol evaporates much quicker, so when left on the glass, the alcohol evaporates and the surface tension of the water increases forming drops that gravity takes control of. This is not a measure of the viscosity or the quality of the wine so don’t worry about it. Further reading on this phenomena can be found here [] and on Wikipedia.

3. Drink Red Wine At Room Temperature, White Wine Chilled

stormhoek_chilled_white_wineFalse. Although this idea isn’t necessarily wrong, it’s interpretation almost always is. Many see this as letting a red wine sit out on the counter so it can come to the current room temperature, and opening white wine right out of the fridge. The real idea behind room temperature for red wine was getting it to around 60 degrees Fahrenheit, the typical temperature of a “room” when this saying was popularized. Many professionals agree, the best way to enjoy wine if you don’t have the luxury of a temperature controlled storage device, is to put your red wines in the fridge for about 5 – 15 minutes before consuming, white wines about 20 – 30 minutes. If you store your wine in the fridge, take the whites out for at least 15 minutes before serving, reds at least 30. Again, it isn’t an exact science, but typically you’re looking for around 60 degrees Fahrenheit on a red, a little below that for a white, and a bit colder for anything that sparkles. Some argue that nuances aren’t observed in white wines that are too cold, which is true. I find that if you chill your wines, over the course of the evening they will warm up and you can observe the development through the night. Professor Bainbridge expands on the subject a bit at the bottom of this op-ed The Red Wines of Summer.

2. All wines get better with age.

vintage_1850False. Actually, a very small number of wines have the proper structure to hold up to aging. Most wines are made with the intention that they will be opened within a few years. The small amount of trophy wines that garner the majority of the press are the ones that have been built for longer aging, and most people don’t even buy these wines. So if you’ve been saving that white Zinfandel from 10 years ago because you think it’s getting better, might want to cut your losses now. (Can you say Re-gift?)

1. Smelling the cork in a restaurant will tell you if the wine is bad.

corksFalse. Cork’s smell like….well, cork, and won’t give you an indication of the quality of the wine. It’s the wine that you want to smell, the cork is only offered to you for a quick examination. So what should you be looking for when the waiter hands you the cork? If you’re buying an expensive bottle the biggest thing you want to avoid is fraud, and if you’re at a reputable restaurant, they’re going to be buying from reputable sources, but again, this is just a precaution. Does the winery’s name, logo, or other branding information appear on the cork? Has the cork been damaged, compromised, allowed seepage in any way? If it is a more expensive bottle, does the year stamped on the cork match the vintage of the wine?

Atlas Olive Oils – Tasting and Recipe

atlas_olive_oil_desert_miracle(Posted by T.A.P.)
I’m definitely not an expert on olive oil, the way it should taste, the different nuances, the proper color, etc.  But, much like wine, I do know what is pleasing to my palate.  So when Atlas Olive Oils asked if I would sample their olive oil I thought I’d give it a try.  I wouldn’t be able to offer an “expert” opinion, but I would be able to give it a review based on my taste.

Atlas Olive Oils estate (Website) is located in the dry areas of Morocco where they cultivate over one million olive trees.  The olives are harvested directly from the tree, never coming into contact with the soil, and the time period between harvesting and crushing never exceeds 20 minutes.  It’s the attention to details such as this that make for a very high quality product.  Just taking a look at their website one comes to see that olive oil is a passion for those at Atlas Olive Oils, not just a business.
They offer two olive oils.  Desert Miracle, aptly named because it seems a miracle to be able to produce olive oil out of a desert, and Les Terroirs De Marrakech which is their ultra-premium extra virgin olive oil and has a limited production of 25,000 liters. (Note: The oils recently won 3rd best olive oil in the world for 2009 at the MARIO SOLINAS olive oil competition. Website [])

The following are my tasting notes on these oils. Since I don’t consider myself an expert, you’ll notice that ratings were foregone.

Full Disclosure: The following oils were sent as press samples.
Desert Miracle
Recommended Retail: $11.29 USD
Notes: Hints of dried pineapple and banana on the nose, with a buttery and lovely palate that leads to a slightly peppery finish. Very nice and great as a salad dressing. See note below.

Les Terriors de Marrakech
Recommended Retail: $11.86 USD
Notes: A very green smelling and tasting olive oil, a bit like cut grass with a mellow palate that leads into a buttery aftertaste that shows no bitterness. Great drizzled on a variety of foods.

basic_saladSalad Recipe

Mixed Baby Greens
Baby Spinach
Strawberries – sliced
Red Onion – very thinly sliced
Crumbled Feta Cheese
Sweet & Spicy Walnuts
Basic Balsamic Vinaigrette (See Below)

Sweet & Spicy Walnuts

Brown sugar
Cayenne pepper
Black Pepper
Non-stick spray

Spray pan with non-stick spray and place over medium heat.
Add desired amount of walnuts to pan.
Sprinkle brown sugar, (white sugar can also be used), a pinch of salt, fresh ground black pepper, dash of cayenne pepper and a sprinkle or two of cinnamon over the nuts.
Stir the nuts continually until all of the sugar has melted and each nut is coated.
Remove from heat and set aside to cool.
Once nuts are cooled, sprinkle over salad and enjoy!
Specific amounts are not given as the spices can be adjusted to taste.  This recipe is more of a method rather than exact measurements.

Basic Balsamic Vinaigrette

The Desert Miracle is a great oil to use in this vinaigrette as the green notes of the Les Terriors de Marrakech and other subtle flavors would probably be overwhelmed and masked by the flavor of the vinegar. We choose to use an Industriale type of affordable balsamic vinegar available from most grocery stores. The ratio of oil to vinegar keeps the subtle flavors in the oil from being overwhelmed, and the addition of a bit of sugar helps to cut through the acidity of the vinegar. Salt and pepper balance out the flavors.

Serves 6 well dressed salads:
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
3 tablespoons Desert Miracle Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Pinch of cane sugar
Salt and pepper to taste

Measure the vinegar into a small bowl. Slowly drizzle in the Olive Oil, whisking briskly to emulsify the mix until there is no separation between the oil and vinegar. Add a pinch of sugar and season with salt and pepper. Whisk until fully combined then drizzle over salad until lightly coated.

For more info visit

Note: The oil will be available for purchase in the USA very soon.